Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

For Jewish Brighton Beach, It’s Memoir Time

June 12, 2012

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

If you’ve seen movies set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn such as “Little Odessa” and “Two Lovers”, you would think that the neighborhood is inhabited almost exclusively by Jews from the Former Soviet Union.

If today were the 1990s, you’d be right. But a group of Columbia University graduate students has produced a short video, called “The Changing Face of Brighton Beach,” documenting how the population of Brighton Beach has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Hint: You’ll still hear a whole lot of Russian in the streets, but you can’t assume its speakers are Jewish.

Click here to read more and watch the video.
© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

What’s Left

June 6, 2010

It turns out my middle son comes by his stage presence honestly, or more accurately – genetically.

Just today, my father sent me this 80-year-old poster:

That’s my handsome Zaida (my paternal grandfather) second from the bottom on the left-hand side. He was 21 years-old back in 1930, and a new immigrant to Calgary, Canada from Novogrod Volinsk, Russia (near Kiev, now in Ukraine).

The poster announces in Yiddish: “Happy News! The day has arrived!” It seems Yiddish speakers on the Prairie must have been waiting with bated breath for “The Step-Mother.” I’m sure Calgary’s Peretz Institute (a Bundist organization)  had nothing on Second Avenue, but it looks like those Jewish westerners were, nevertheless, diehard theater patrons.

While we don’t know yet how far my son’s talents will take him, we do know that my Zaida’s acting career was extremely short-lived. “The Step-Mother” may have very well been his first and last show. The story has it that he only got involved in dramatics because of a socialist girlfriend. He was serious about her, but she was even more serious…about radical politics. Once the girlfriend started drifting leftward from socialism toward communism, my Zaida felt the need to part ways. It was farewell to her, to the Peretz shul, and to Yiddish theater.

My Zaida eventually settled down with a decidedly apolitical woman, my Bubbe, and (if I recall correctly) tended as the years went by to favor the Conservative Party. His dabbling in socialist politics may have come to an end, but his charisma, engaging personality and presence live on in his great-grandson.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.